On a warm Thursday morning, I drove from Los Angeles to Lake Casitas with my 10-year-old daughter, Isabella. She wasn’t thrilled with the idea of camping and fishing. Too many biting mosquitoes and idle hours standing on a muddy shore, she said. But when I told her about the water park, she looked up from her Nintendo DS screen and asked, “How big are the water slides?” I took that as a positive response.
The lake is about a 70-minute drive from Los Angeles, a perfect distance for a quick weekend getaway. Drive along oak-shaded California 33 east of Ventura into the rolling hills near Ojai and then turn west onto California 150 and you’ll find the blue-green waters of Lake Casitas. When we pulled up to the entrance, we requested a campsite near the water park. (Camping permits start at $25 per night.) We got a spot in campground C, a short walk from the water park and within earshot of the cacophony on 150.
From Los Angeles, take U.S. 101 north for about 70 miles. Take California 33 east toward Ojai and continue for about 10 miles. Turn left onto California 150 (Baldwin Road), then left again onto Santa Ana Road. The park entrance is on the right. www.lakecasitas.info
(Hugo Martin / Los Angeles Times )
It’s not K2 or Kanchenjunga. It’s not McKinley or even Kilimanjaro. It’s mighty Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in America’s Lower 48 states and reputedly the highest walk-up summit on the planet open to just about any local bucket-lister with a healthy pulse, reliable footwear, the right attitude and enough foresight to apply in February for a summer climbing permit.
Perched atop its boulder-strewn crest on a cloudless Saturday afternoon in July or August, gaping over a glorious granite sea of southern Sierra Nevada peaks, is a crowd of high-fivers about as select-looking as a line at the DMV.
As I set out on my first sailing lesson on San Francisco Bay, another student offered me a tip. “The first rule of sailing,” he said as we boarded a 34-foot J-105 at the Berkeley Marina, “is to always look good.”
Call me overly cautious, but in my book, the first rule of sailing is don’t drown.
Sponsored by the Forest Service and run by local astronomy enthusiasts, Palomar’s “Explore the Stars” program began about 15 years ago when a ranger at the Cleveland National Forest saw it as a great public outreach opportunity in one of the nation’s most hallowed star-gazing spots, the Palomar Observatory and its 200-inch Hale telescope (formerly the world’s largest) just two miles up the road from the campground. One weekend a month, from April through October, amateur astronomers from San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties set up shop in the Observatory Campground’s north end (a “light-free zone” after 9 p.m.) and invite the scopeless public to have a look through their fancy equipment, learn about what’s out there beyond our light-soaked cities and marvel at the unfathomable.
Take Interstate 15 south to Highway 76. Drive east on Highway 76 for about 22 miles to County Road S6 (South Grade Road), which winds for seven miles to the top of Palomar Mountain in the Cleveland National Forest in northern San Diego County. Turn left onto Canfield Road for 2.5 miles to the Observatory Campground entrance on the right.
No one seems to know exactly when Millard Campground was converted from a day-use-only picnic spot near a nice waterfall into L.A.'s most convenient place to snore in the woods. Or, for that matter, if and when it might be converted back.
But on any given Saturday, it’s clear that word has spread about this quick ‘n’ easy overnight retreat -- the closest place to the city in Angeles National Forest to park, pitch a tent, put up a hammock, plunk a hot dog on a stick and pretend for a starry night or two that Los Angeles (a stone’s throw away) doesn’t exist.
Millard Campground is at the foot of Angeles National Forest just north of Altadena. From the 210 Freeway in Pasadena, exit at Lake Avenue and drive north about 3 1/2 miles to Loma Alta Drive. Turn left and drive a mile to Chaney Trail (at the flashing yellow light). Turn right and continue about 1 1/2 miles through the park gates to the campground/trail head parking lot. Follow the fire road about 100 yards to the campground.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Whenever some local volunteer at a magnificent state park tucked away on California‘s Central Coast waxes on about mountain lions, bobcats and rattlesnakes to a couple of wide-eyed Angelenos, you can be pretty sure of two things.
First, probably nothing more predatory than a turkey vulture will be encountered over the next 48 hours. Second, what may actually be going on (at least unconsciously) during this warmly grave reception is an attempt at crowd control.
Welcome to Montaña de Oro State Park. Please don’t tell all your friends about us.
Bisbee’s old town and many of its attractions reside in a gully known as Tombstone Canyon. Military men on patrol in the 1880s noted the brightly colored minerals in the canyon, a result of an abundance of copper, and it wasn’t long before they filed mining claims for the area. Bisbee’s fortunes rose and fell with demand for the metal, hitting a peak during World War I.
The desert is a master of disguise, portraying itself as a lifeless wasteland, devoid of color and sound. It’s just the opposite. Among those billions of grains of sand are countless hibernating seeds just waiting for a dose of rain and sun to spring to life, triggering a riot of swaying flowers, buzzing bees, flapping birds, howling coyotes and hopping hares.
Anza-Borrego Visitor Center, 200 Palm Canyon Drive, Borrego Springs, (760) 767-5311, www.parks.ca.gov/
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)
I’d seen Lake Tahoe only in winter, its shores under deep snow. So, on Day 1 of my first warm-weather trip around the lake last month, I couldn’t stop prowling the water’s edge, scanning for new hues of blue. On Day 2, I rock-hopped and rented a bike. On Day 3, I hiked above Emerald Bay into the mist of Eagle Falls.
So how, on Day 4, did I wind up in man-made subterranean blackness, stranded in a narrow stone tunnel somewhere between a dead playboy’s boathouse and his opium den?
Like thousands of travelers who visit the Gila Wilderness annually, I had come to see the hardscrabble patch of New Mexico that became the model for every protected wilderness in the country. I came to explore the same rocky trails cut by the Apache warrior Geronimo, homesteaders and gun-packing fugitives. But most of all, I wanted to see whether America’s first wilderness area -- protected 84 years ago from roads, cars and other modern intrusions -- was still as pristine and untamed as Leopold had intended.
Surrounded by towering canyon walls and clawing tree branches, I could see that Leopold’s vision for this land prevailed; it was beautiful, wild -- and even a bit scary.
Boccie and wine in Northern California wine country
Playing boccie at Seghesio is like playing boccie in the backyard of your Italian uncle’s house, if your uncle owned a state-of-the-art outdoor kitchen and wood-burning pizza oven. The grounds here aren’t manicured. You’ll even find a couple of over-watered lemon trees. Seghesio’s two courts are among the few in the area that fall within the official 76- to 90-foot length (87 feet, 6 inches is exact tournament length). There’s no view to speak of -- the courts sit right up against a residential street -- but the shade trees and nicely packed playing surface make for excellent boccie.
And Seghesio’s wine makes for excellent tasting. Its Sangiovese, from the oldest plantings in North America, made me regret ever maligning the varietal as the Merlot of Italy. And their Pinot Grigio, sipped while “spocking” (the term for an underhand throw), seriously improved my score.
At age 101, it’s a wonder that Old Edna is still standing upright. But there she is, along California 227 south of San Luis Obispo, encouraging passing motorists to stop and say “hello.”
She had some hard years -- especially during World War II -- and they took their toll. Edna turned dull gray. Clearly weather-beaten, she developed rusty-brown splotches that, untreated, grew ever larger.
“I could not see my sweet girl mistreated,” says Pattea Torrence, an area resident who had been a frequent visitor for decades. "[She] deserved some attention -- a bit of cosmetic surgery, you might say -- a much-needed bit of lipstick in order for her to stand tall again and greet the passersby.”
The Edna Valley B&B, 1655 Old Price Canyon Road, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401, www.oldedna.com/
(Joe Johnston / For The Times )
The stark landscape looms large here: miles of open land pockmarked by desert scrub; jumbled rocks heaped upon one another to create wild mountains; cantankerous cactuses ready to hurl daggers if you come too close.
Landscapes don’t come much more ruggedly Western than this.
So it’s not surprising to find restaurants that feature an Old West menu. More than a dozen years ago -- the first time I visited -- I dined on fried rattlesnake (chewy), cattle-drive stew (greasy) and Cactus Sam’s enchiladas (with Velveeta in a starring role).
But much has happened on the food scene in the intervening years. Phoenix and Scottsdale chefs have worked hard to downplay the chuck wagon-chow image.
The Ferry Building, that long, tall landmark where Market Street meets the Embarcadero, is where they brought the injured after the great San Franciscoquake of 1906. It’s the hub that drew as many as 50,000 commuters daily across the bay before there were any big bridges here, then sent them back across the water at day’s end. It’s the monument that a freeway amputated from the rest of the city in the 1950s, its clock tower left to jut into the fog like a forgotten gravestone.
Legoland, which covers 128 acres, opened in 1999. The Lego mother ship in Denmark sold the park in 2005 to Merlin Entertainments Group, which spent $20 million on upgrades here in 2008. Though its target audience is children 2 to 12, its gentle nature appeals most to younger kids, but not too young. Kids under 36 inches tall can’t go on some rides.
-- Chris Reynolds
Read more:Legoland’s own small world
Planning your trip:
Legoland is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. most days. (Except for the summer months and holiday weeks, the park closes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.) (760) 918-5346, www.legoland.com.
It’s a prime location. Although I never noticed it in three decades of breezing past on the Pacific Coast Highway, Newport Dunes lies just a block from PCH and Jamboree Road, so close to the shops of Fashion Island you can almost hear them tearing down the Circuit City sign and (keep hope alive!) putting up the new Nordstrom. Generations of locals know Newport Dunes for the fake whale that floats in its lagoon every summer and the fireworks it sends up every Fourth of July.
But for my little family of three, this was an unknown quantity -- not a hotel or condo or rental house, not camping, not a rustic cabin. The resort has its own marina; a little dock; a playground; an upscale restaurant with retractable roof (the Back Bay Bistro); a general store that rents golf carts, Segways and bicycles; and best of all, its own little lagoon, with tiny bay waves lapping at its own crescent of sand, the scene punctuated by meandering ducks, gulls and shore birds. Even after rates rise for summer, it’s easy to see the lure of a few lazy days here.
“It’s cheaper than going to Africa, I’ll say that,"" Christine said as she scanned a rolling savanna where giraffes, gazelles and elephants ambled within a few dozen yards of a tent she shared with her husband, Jim.
For the Claremont couple and more than 50 other safari wannabes like me who spent a chilly Saturday night in March at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, the aptly named Roar & Snore camp out was also enlightening, fun and a little eerie. But not necessarily restful.
-- Jane Engle
Read more:San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park offers overnight camping near wildlife
Planning your trip:
San Diego Zoos Wild Animal Park, (800) 407-9534, www.sandiegozoo.org.”
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)
Home to dozens of critters -- lions and tigers and bears, and more -- the ranch invites folks touring nearby Monterey to take a walk on the wild side. Visitors have a variety of options, including a short, guided tour and a one-on-one encounter with Butch or another beast.
“To us, it’s just introducing people to our friends,” says Charlie Sammut, who in 1983 began providing exotic animals for roles in movies, TV shows and commercials. The tours and the B&B business came later when Sammut found Hollywood producers turning to overseas locations, where animals -- and their trainers -- work for considerably less money.
Read more:Wild times at Vision Quest Ranch in Salinas
-- Jay Jones
Planning your trip:
The ranch, (800) 228-7382, www.visionquestranch.com, is just off California Highway 68 about 20 miles east of Monterey. Guided tours are offered at 1 p.m. daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for children. For bed-and-breakfast, the winter rate (through March 31) is $195, double occupancy. Children 12 and older are welcome Sundays through Thursdays.
Long before Las Vegas was incorporated in 1905 -- and even longer before the arrival of casinos -- the desolate, inhospitable and therefore unsettled desert of southern Nevada was known for just one thing: its mineral-rich rock. The land is pockmarked with the remains of old gold and silver mines, most of which petered out almost as quickly as they were dug.
The Techatticup mining camp was one of the exceptions, a place where men “chased the vein” for more than 80 years. From 1861 until the start of World War II, men toiled underground in Eldorado Canyon near the hamlet of Nelson, about 40 miles southeast of what’s now the Vegas Strip.
Herb Robbins’ home is in Las Vegas, a three-hour drive to the southeast of the dusty former mining town of Gold Point. On weekdays, he works as a wallpaper hanger. On weekends, he comes here to work as a carpenter, plumber and roofer, toiling to bring back this western Nevada town, which boomed when gold was discovered here in 1908 and went bust a couple of years later.
As the town prepares to celebrate its centennial, Robbins puts on his sheriff’s badge and his six-shooter and proudly shows visitors the fruits of his labors: a ghost town back from the dead.
Gold Point is about a three-hour drive northwest from Las Vegas on U.S. 95 or a 5 1/2 -hour drive from Los Angeles by U.S. 395. Herb Robbins encourages people to contact him before visiting: email@example.com, (775) 482-4653.
Dawn is coming soon. The lights are off, the sound system silent and the beasts of the Monterey Bay Aquarium have the place mostly to themselves: the otters, the anemones, the octopuses, the great white shark in the big tank, the lame young albatross in its rooftop cage -- and Kacey Kurimura, who’s at the kitchen sink in her apron and waterproof boots, reaching for a knife.
Maybe the sea never sleeps, but this is how the day begins at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Before this one is over, 2,881 visitors will troop through, that young shark will fill up on a mere 3 1/2 pounds of fish, the albatross will dance with a new friend. And the jellyfish expert will get stung, which happens about three times a week.
Snowshoeing at Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Resort
Today, the sport of snowshoeing is enjoying a surge of popularity, marked by a 30% spike in snowshoe sales between 2005 and 2008, according to SnowSports Industries America, a nonprofit trade group representing snow sport businesses.
So, in the middle of a late-winter storm, I traveled to this 9,000-acre winter resort near Soda Springs to see why almost 6 million Americans take part in what seems like the most leisurely of snow sports.
Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Resort is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays; daily passes $25, snowshoe rentals $21; (800) 500-3871, www.royalgorge.com.
(Hugo Martin / Los Angeles Times )
Besides the new paint on its old lodge, the Badger Pass Ski Area in Yosemite National Park now boasts state-of-the-art chairlifts -- Eagle and Badger -- with truly smooth rides. All of this and more as Badger Pass chalks up its 75th year as a ski area operating entirely within a national park.
Colin Baldock, area manager for Badger Pass, calls it “the best little ski area in the USA.” Pressed to explain why, Baldock makes it clear he does not think he is exaggerating.
All-day lift tickets cost $42 for adults, $37 for ages 13 to 17, and $20 for kids 12 and younger. Information on ski conditions, reservations, weather and road conditions is available at www.yosemitepark.com.
(Kenny Karst / National Park Service)
Before the face-lift, Mammoth was known for its rustic charms. It was a hodgepodge of hotels, strip malls and mom-and-pop eateries, but that didn’t bother most of the skiers and snowboarders who came only for the mountain experience. Thanks to an average of 33 feet of snow and 300 days of sunshine each year, the experience was usually good.
The resort took a transformative step in 2008 when Mammoth Mountain teamed with Patina Restaurant Group in an effort to improve its culinary offerings. To make the slopes more convenient, Horizon Air began nonstop flights from Los Angeles International Airport to the Mammoth Yosemite Airport.
Three-hundred and forty-five driving miles north of Los Angeles, 72 miles south of San Francisco and many leagues to the left of Middle America, Santa Cruz calls out to newcomers like a lazy mermaid atop Monterey Bay. With tie-dyed scales.
“Dude,” this mermaid drawls. “What’s your hurry?”
What with the redwoods, the shapely waves, the historic beachfront amusement park, the barking sea lions under the old wharf and the fluttering monarch butterflies that alight here every fall, Santa Cruz has always possessed plenty to lure tourists.
I had come to Sedona seeking beauty and had found it in the region’s soaring red monoliths and in the rushing waters of Oak Creek. Long considered one of the most scenic cities in the Southwest, Sedona can hold its own among the nation’s national parks, including the Grand Canyon, about 2 1/2 hours north.
But Sedona has other attributes too. It may be the only place in the nation where you can get a psychic massage at your hotel, buy “healing crystals” at a burger joint or wear a purple wizard’s hat to dinner without drawing stares.
You road-less-traveled types may adore Catalina. During high season, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Southern Californians flock to this overgrown rock like Bostonians to Martha’s Vineyard. Californians visit Catalina’s hilltop Wrigley Mansion (now the pleasant Inn on Mt. Ada), attend movie premieres and Kenny Loggins concerts at its landmark Casino Ballroom (where Duke Ellington once played) and take bus tours through its vast backcountry (still occupied by real buffalo herds).
These are all legacies of chewing-gum baron William Wrigley Jr., who bought the whole 76-square-mile island for a couple of million bucks sight unseen in 1919 and shaped it into his vision of an offshore hinterland and equestrian-class resort.
There’s a sunny nine-hole golf course here too (reportedly the oldest in Southern California), a triathlon and an October jazz festival. But come winter, when tourism plummets to a fraction of its fair-weather numbers, Catalina may be something closer to a secret getaway.
Explore Catalina’s 42,135 acres of rugged outback the easy way, in an open-air Mercedes Unimog or a 1950s Flxible bus ( 510-8687, www.visitcatalinaisland.com). Hiking in the backcountry requires a permit (free) from the Catalina Island Conservancy ( 510-2595, www.catalinaconservancy.org).
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
Hotel rooms often are boring places you have to put up with just to explore some place exciting. At Nick’s Cove, a new complex on Tomales Bay an hour or so north of San Francisco, you could be perfectly happy spending most of your time just exploring the hotel rooms.
Not that you’d actually call any of these places “hotel rooms.”
A string of a dozen cabins, cottages and other assorted structures stretched alongside Highway 1 just north of the town of Point Reyes, Nick’s Cove is a kind of Ralph Lauren meets Northern California fever dream of a resort.
Nick’s Cove on Tomales Bay 23240 Highway 1, Marshall, Calif. (415) 663-1033. Cabins from $225 to $695.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Hurkey Creek Park is about 10 miles from Idyllwild in the San Jacinto Mountains. From Los Angeles, drive 90 miles east on Interstate 10 to the 8th Street exit at Banning and follow the signs to California Highway 243, which winds southeast for 30 miles through Idyllwild to the California Highway 74 junction at Mountain Center. Turn left onto Highway 74 and drive 4 1/2 miles to the park entrance (on the left at the Apple Canyon Road turnoff). The park is also accessible from Palm Desert and Hemet by way of California 74.
Hurkey Creek Park has more than 100 sites (plus five large group sites) with picnic tables, fire pits, restroom and shower facilities, and a two-vehicle/six-person limit per site. Large RVs and trailers are permitted, but there are no hook-ups. Sites cost $20 per night. Reserve with Riverside County Parks between April and October. The campground is also open for day use ($2 per adult, $1 per 12-and-under) from dawn to dusk.
The 67-acre property is full of parks and plazas lining broad boulevards in the heart of the complex. Sculptures from such world-class artists as Maya Lin (the Vietnam Veterans Memorial) and Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen add to the metropolitan mood.
It has been eight years since the casino opened, and six years since the debut of the hotel, hence the redo. The former Terrace Buffet, now called Choices, has been expanded, and two new restaurants have opened. Changes to the lobby, including new furniture, flooring and art.
Despite the tired look of my room, the 507-room resort was a real bargain. The grand suites are more than 1,000 square feet, with showers the size of small rooms, as well as powder rooms, wet bars and large living rooms. (Rates start at $290.)
Pala Casino Spa Resort 11154 California Highway 76, Pala, Calif., 92059; (877) 946-7252, www.palacasino.com Rates: Doubles begin at $119
(Beverly Beyette / For The Times )
If Las Vegas is the rock star of the gambling world, energetic with plenty of edge, then Laughlin is the lounge singer -- thinning on top and slightly off-key. Still, that lounge act is entertaining in a curious sort of way and, best of all, there’s no cover charge.
Laughlin, which hugs the banks of the Colorado River about 30 miles north of Needles, Calif., boasts 11 hotel-casinos with more than 10,000 rooms. The town has been called “Vegas Lite” and “Vegas Junior.” I prefer “Vegas on Valium.” Don’t expect to make a dash for the bar or the pool. The senior citizens who occupy many of the hotel rooms keep the pace at a crawl. There’s no edginess here, but for some that’s part of the attraction.
Unlike its big sister ( Las Vegas), Laughlin doesn’t offer any scheduled air service from Southern California. Take Interstate 15 to Barstow and then Interstate 40 to Needles. From there, follow U.S. 95 north. The total trip is 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
dwarfs the village’s other structures and has become the scenic focal point for hundreds of thousands of snapshots. -- Rosemary McClure (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
San Juan Islands
The National Historical Park, devoted to sharing the story of the Pig War, is on San Juan Island, one of the more than 70 islands in a chain bearing the same name. In the “rain shadow” of the Olympic Mountains, the San Juans get only half as much rain as Seattle and have an average of 247 sunny days a year. The summer months are the most popular for tourists, though Washington state ferries ( www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries) take passengers and their vehicles on scenic voyages to the islands year-round.
Why, you may ask, are we rushing north on Interstate 5 and veering east on California 126 into the Santa Clara Valley? Why are we pulling off the road by a fruit stand and slipping into the backyard? Are we going to tip a cow? Steal oranges?
We are not. We are here for a date with a black-haired, blue-eyed beauty named Ramona.
She is, by at least one historian’s reckoning, “the most important woman in the history of Southern California.”
Those flecks, spotted in these hills above Julian in the winter of 1869, set off San Diego County’s only gold rush -- and gave birth to the mining camp that is now this picturesque mountain town 145 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
Some of the 800 prospectors who flocked to the area struck it rich -- before the boom went bust seven years later, after producing about $2 million in gold ($150 million in today’s dollars). Today, the Old West lives on in Julian, with its wooden sidewalks and 19th century brick and wood buildings.
Hearst Castle, donated to the state by the Hearst Corp. on Dec. 31, 1957, and opened to public tours six months later, remains the fanciest open house you’ll find between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It’s a living (and occasionally leaking) testament to what results when a well-traveled, art-intoxicated, house-proud rich guy ignores all common sense, keeps a patient and pliable architect busy through 28 years of design, construction, addition and revision, then leaves it all in the hands of a government agency.
Drive north on Interstate 5 or U.S. 101, then head west to California 1 northbound. About 240 miles north of Los Angeles, nine miles north of Cambria and one mile north of hotel-heavy San Simeon Village, you reach the exit for Hearst Castle.
(Dan Steinberg / Associated Press)
Thanks to the hard work of some die-hard train buffs, modern-day travelers are once again able to enjoy elegant rail journeys in vintage cars.
About once a month, passengers climb aboard the classic rail cars for a trip back in time. The cars are coupled to Amtrak trains on scheduled runs, such as the ones between Los Angeles and Oakland and between Emeryville and Reno. The trips aren’t cheap; a ticket for the round-trip between Oakland and Bakersfield costs $225, more than double the fare in an Amtrak coach. Still, many of the excursions sell out weeks in advance.
Excursions are organized year-round by Trains Unlimited Tours; (800) 359-4870, www.trainsunlimitedtours.com. Prices vary, depending on the length of the trip.
In the face of the hard times between 1929 and 1941, including a bitter maritime strike in 1934, all sorts of strange and wonderful creations and transformations emerged in San Francisco. Murals. Bridges. Even a couple of islands.
In my single-minded mission, I made it to the first nine of these 11 Depression-era landmarks in 24 hours. As a saner, slower traveler, you could easily cover five in a weekend. Most are inexpensive or free. And you’ve probably already visited several Depression landmarks without thinking of them that way.
San Francisco City Guides, (www.sfcityguides.org), an all-volunteer walking-tour organization arranges walks to about 30 city sites every month, including many ‘30s landmarks.
(Dave Getzschman / For the Times)
Yes, 1959 was a swinging year in Palm Springs. And it’s not over yet.
Thanks to legions of preservationists, entrepreneurs, publishers and design-driven travelers, the cult of Desert Modernism gets bigger and bigger, drawing all sorts of retro pilgrims to Palm Springs, including me.
Inspired by one new book about Palm Springs and another about the ‘50s, I spent three October days in the desert, all dedicated to the pursuit of news, views and fun from 1959.
I’ve never taken an antidepressant, but if the time comes, I’m hoping the effect will be like that of driving onto the Stanford campus for the first time.
As the towering palm trees march past in the raking light of a fall afternoon, the gentle declivity of a grassy oval comes into view, gamboling youths upon it and a cluster of red blossoms in the shape of an “S.”
Then you notice the first stately sandstone buildings, the glittering Memorial Church facade beyond them, a beaming undergrad gliding down an arcade on her bike. And as a gentle breeze brushes past the campus lake and golf course, you try to imagine a bitter argument between those who say these buildings are more Richardsonian Romanesque and those who insist they’re more rooted in Mission Revival.
Free one-hour tours begin at the front steps of Stanford’s Memorial Auditorium (Visitor Center, 551 Serra Mall,  723-2560) at 11 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. More info: www.stanford.edu/dept/visitorinfo.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Berkeley, the city, is a famously liberal enclave of 102,000 people wedged into about 10 square miles just north of Oakland. Berkeley, the campus, is 1,232 acres of that, but most of the action is in the 178-acre central core, which faces San Francisco Bay from the low slopes of the Berkeley Hills.
That core area is where you find the school’s key landmarks, including the 307-foot Campanile (a.k.a. Sather Tower, which serves as a North Star to many a meandering freshman), Sproul Plaza and stodgy old South Hall, which goes back to this school’s early days in 1873.
Student guides lead walking tours of the campus at 10 a.m. daily, with additional 1 p.m. tours on weekends. They last 90 minutes and end near Sather Gate. On weekdays, the tours start at 101 University Hall, 2200 University Ave., at the corner of Oxford Street, and end at Sproul Plaza. Weekend tours start at the Campanile (Sather Tower) in the center of campus. More info: (510) 642-5215, visitors.berkeley.edu.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
The expansive resort is at once inviting and invigorating but not so grand that you’ll fret if your labels aren’t designer. The Spanish Mediterranean styling fits neatly into the area’s architecture; the commitment to environmental sustainability fits into the times. With free-standing villas positioned closer to the road, each painted and landscaped distinctly, the resort looks more like a housing development than a commercial enterprise.
The 199 guest-room hotel is a clever and contemporary fusion of Mediterranean and Latin themes, delivered with a mix of hot colors, rich textures and inviting public spaces. The exterior partitions of the free-standing hotel buildings are painted bougainvillea magenta, and hand-carved wooden doors and metal-mesh lampshades provide texture and drama to what was once a blah décor.
At first I was puzzled by all the off-white canvas covering one wall, the French doors and the platform bed. Nautical in the desert? Then it dawned on me: Sahara and tents. -- Beverly Beyette (Douglas Lyle Thompson and Jon Johnson / Ace Hotel)
The overall décor is light, bright and inventive. A giant photo mural of ice plants surrounds the front desk, while oversize graphics of sea kelp paper the adjacent stairwell. -- Valli Herman (Christian Horan)
Paris-born designer Philippe Starck’s signature touches abound in the whimsical décor of the 297-room SLS. A horse sculpture balances a lamp on its head. The 177 chairs and 20 not-so-serious chandeliers are delightfully mismatched. -- Beverly Beyette (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)
Pelican Hill aims to set itself apart in a crowded luxury field with a mix of California-casual lifestyle and exquisite service. That was my experience, anyway. When was the last time a room service waiter pointed out the tip was included? -- Beverly Beyette (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)
The 201-room Montage, a sister hotel to Montage Laguna Beach, was built to evoke Hollywood’s Golden Age. Room décor in this $200-million edifice is traditional, with dark woods and a gold and white palette. -- Beverly Beyette (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
This is a hotel that announces itself. Guests enter through a double-wide, 1,000-pound pivoting bronze door that, surprisingly, can be opened with the slightest touch. Look to the right in the lobby and there’s a see-through fireplace. -- Beverly Beyette (Se Hotel)
The Indigo’s icon is a blue nautilus shell -- blue for calm, the nautilus to represent the epitome of perfect proportion in nature. Bed pillows are embroidered with blue shells and an invitation to “curl up.” -- Beverly Beyette (InterContinental Hotel Group)
Hotels that once shunned nonhuman guests are now rolling out the grass carpet. And we’re not just talking about Motel 6, which has allowed guests to bunk with man’s best friend since its founding in 1962. -- Rosemary McClure (Rosemary McClure / For the Times)